Christmas Recap

Since I never followed up on this: we had fun with Dave’s dad and stepmom. This was the first time Catie’s gotten to meet this set of grandparents, and she had a great time getting acquainted with her Granddad and Grandma Sue.

Grandma Sue, Granddad, & Catie

For that matter, so did I, since this was my first time meeting them as well.

Oh, and I now have a pretty good idea of what Dave is going to look like in about 25 years.

3 generations, 1 face

It was a little creepy, to be honest. My father-in-law looks uncannily like Dave, but his mannerisms and the way he speaks are exactly like Steve, Dave’s brother. It was cool to witness it, but also totally bizarre.

We left Yorkshire and drove back to Carlisle on Christmas Eve. It was not anywhere close to being on par with our other marathon drives, it only took about two hours. Catie fell asleep a few minutes after we started driving, and she woke up as we pulled into the driveway. We told her that we were back at Grandma & Grandpa Roger’s house, and she applauded and yelled “YAAAYYY!!!” Ah, if only all road trips were that easy.

That night, we left our treats by the fireplace.

treats by the fireplace

Mince pies and milk for Santa, carrots for his reindeer. Naturally.

The next day, we opened presents.

opening presents is fun!
(Confession: I cut Catie’s bangs myself. I know they’re uneven and awful. I usually do a good job on her bangs, but I didn’t have the right scissors and she kept jerking her head away from me. The good news is that her hair grows insanely fast, so it won’t look bad for long.)

The only thing Catie asked Santa for was a stuffed reindeer that she saw at the grocery store. When she opened her presents and saw her reindeer, she exclaimed, “Hey, it’s the reindeer from Food Lion!” Yes, sweetie, I guess Santa knows where to shop.

Santa also brought her a metric crap-ton of other stuff that she didn’t ask for, which Mommy and Daddy are going to be frantically trying to cram into our suitcases for the trip home. I’m currently thanking my lucky stars that I decided to bring along an extra empty duffel bag in my suitcase. I suspected that it was going to come in handy.

Then we had our huuuuuuge Christmas dinner, courtesy of my mother-in-law, who is such an amazing chef that she should really have her own restaurant or something. That was fantastic.

Steve & Mags at Christmas dinner

me & Dave

me & Catie at Christmas dinner

And you know, no proper British Christmas would be complete without a flaming Christmas pudding.

Flaming Christmas pudding!

(And no, I don’t know why they call things pudding that are decidedly NOT pudding. Like, Yorkshire pudding is essentially a bread roll, and Christmas pudding is a type of fruitcake. I don’t get that at all.)

So, yes, it was a really great Christmas. Even though Dave and I are both still sick as dogs with this sinus infection/flu/tuberculosis/coughing-sickness-of-DOOM, we managed to rally for most of the day, and have a good time in between all the coughing fits and nose blowings. Getting to watch Catie enjoy the whole Santa Claus experience and open all of her presents was really the best part of the whole day. Although the fantastic meal didn’t hurt either.

Tomorrow we’ll be driving down to London (300 miles, not looking forward to that), where we’ll spend the night in a hotel, and catch an early flight out on Monday morning. Of course, because of that jackass terrorist, we’ve been warned that we should allow extra time for going through security, and that everyone should expect to be fully searched before getting on the plane, so “keep carry-on items to a minimum” (which, guess what? That’s pretty much impossible when traveling with a toddler!). So, yeah. Thanks a lot, a-hole.

Oh, and when I told Catie that we’d be driving down to London tomorrow, and flying back home the next day? She started to cry, and said, “No, I stay here wit’ my doggies!”

Grandpa Roger & Catie petting Zack the puppy

Sorry, kiddo, you’re not getting a dog. If there’s one thing your Mommy doesn’t need in her life, it’s another thing whose poop she has to clean up. If we bring one more pooping creature into our house, it’s going to be because I gave birth to it.

(And no, that wasn’t a hint that I might be pregnant. Not even a little. Being in a thin-walled house with one’s parents across the hall does not inspire The Romance. Neither does the feeling that both you and your spouse might hack up a lung at any given moment. So, no. No announcements here. But who knows what lies ahead in 2010?)

one thousand

This is my 1,000th blog post since I started this site back in August 2003. It’s strange, thinking about those first few entries, which started about nine months before I met Dave. If I could have imagined my life now, I’m sure that my imaginary future most certainly would not have included spending Christmas in England with my husband’s family, sitting at a cozy warm kitchen table with a cup of tea and my laptop, and looking up to watch sheep graze in the pasture behind my in-laws’ house. Meanwhile, my husband and our 2 year-old daughter take a nap together upstairs.

It’s not what I would have expected, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, yes, obviously we made it to the UK in one piece. Catie did phenomenally well on the plane until the last half hour or so, but even with the one meltdown at the end, she did far better than we expected. We went through the border (where Dave got to through the fast & speedy UK/EU passport line, and Catie and I had to wait in line with all of the other “foreigners” – aka Americans, since I think most everyone else in line was on our same flight from Dulles). The very nice immigration lady told me that next time, Catie & I can go through the UK line with Dave, since we’re a family, even though Catie & I don’t have UK passports. Good to know!

We got our bags, got a rental car, and spent the night at a hotel near Heathrow. The next day, we got up and drove to Carlisle, where my mother-in-law, her partner/boyfriend (Grandpa Roger, as he’s known around these parts), and my brother-in-law Steve all live. It’s about a 300-mile drive from London, and it was probably too much to ask of Catie with the previous day being all travel as well. She did great for the first half of the trip, but the poor kid was just exhausted and bored, and she decided she’d had enough. We ended up pulling over and rearranging suitcases so I could sit in the backseat with her to calm her down, which (surprisingly) worked.

Also, from the backseat, I was able to effectively ignore Dave’s driving, which helped. I mean, he’s an ok driver, I just kept involuntarily reaching for a steering wheel that wasn’t in front of me, and almost screaming, “LOOK OUT!” because I kept panicking that we were on the wrong side of the road and the other cars were going to drive straight into us. It’s much easier to ignore the fear of your certain impending demise from the back seat.

We’ve spent the past two days just recovering from jet lag and not doing much else. This morning, Catie & I watched the UK version of the Wonder Pets. As in, the voices of Linny, Tuck & Ming-Ming are done by entirely different child actors with British accents. It blew both of our minds. (And, before you ask, no, the British version of Ming-Ming can’t pronounce her R’s either.)

Tomorrow, we’re driving up to Scotland – we’re spending one night in Inverness, then heading up to the Highlands to stay in our cottages. It feels weird to say they’re “our” cottages – like, oh so casual, “why yes, we own some land up on the northern coast of Scotland, doesn’t everyone?” But now that Dave, Steve, and their mom have made this a joint business venture, those two cottages really are ours, and someday they’ll be Catie’s.

I understand the cottages are near the cliffs and the ocean, and it’s supposed to be really beautiful there, so I look forward to taking a LOT of pictures.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites that I’ve taken so far. The rest of the set is here.

ready for take-off

Catie & I in the bathroom mirror

sheep pasture

Baby's (and Mommy's) first camping trip

Those of you who know me, know that I am not an outdoorsy type of girl. I freak out when I see a bug, I have horrible seasonal allergies, and I’m not a big fan of being out in the elements if it’s too hot or too cold or even remotely unpleasant. I’m a big wuss, basically.

In light of that, I’m not quite sure why I agreed to go camping this past weekend. I guess because it’s becoming Dave’s latest hobby, and I’d like to be included in it. Plus, springtime means the weather is nice and moderate. And Dave told me that the campsites have electricity, water, and a building with toilets and showers, so it’s not like I’d have to pee in the bushes or anything. Heck, some of the campsites now offer wi-fi. So it seemed like something that I could handle. Maybe.

Let the record show: I’ve never slept in a tent in my life. I mean, sure there was once at a slumber party that we set up a tent in the neighbor girl’s backyard, but I was back inside the house with my sleeping bag on the floor of the playroom before midnight. My family took “camping” trips when I was a kid where we’d go hiking in state parks, but we stayed in motels or cabins. And honestly, all I remember of those trips is blistering heat (summer in the South, not the best time to plan an outdoor vacation) and feeling like I was dying of thirst (since this was before people carried bottled water with them, so there was nothing to drink until we stopped for lunch or dinner).

Mostly, I remember the fighting. There was always lots of fighting. I hated those trips. But like so many other things, I thought that this might be an opportunity to do something for Catie that’s completely different than my own childhood. Turning my bad memories into happy ones, something like that.

So we set off for Asheboro, North Carolina, and set up camp at the Deep River Campground. It was very pretty.

view from our campsite

Check out our fancy-pants accomodations.

our accomodations

I know you’re jealous.

It made me nervous to be camping right by the lake, since Catie doesn’t always seem to understand that she can’t jump into any body of water like it’s her own personal bathtub. But we told her that it was ok for her to throw rocks and twigs into the lake, but she absolutely could not go in there, and she seemed to get it. Still, we had our eyes on her pretty much constantly.

Catie by the lake

And really? The camping was not so bad. Only two complaints:
1) The bathrooms were gross. Really gross. I sort of wish I’d taken pictures so I could prove my case, but I didn’t think of it until later. But I quickly decided that since we were only going to be there one night, I’d be ok with just skipping the whole shower thing until we got home, thank you very much.
2) Sleeping in a tent actually sucked worse than I thought it would. It dropped down into the 50’s that night, which is pretty darn cold when you’re basically outside. We got a sleeping bag for me before this trip, but the zipper wouldn’t come more than halfway up, so my legs were sweaty and my upper half was freezing. And poor Catie was miserable. She started crying from being so cold around 3 a.m., and it took almost 2 hours to get her settled back to sleep. She woke up in a pretty good mood, though.

SERIOUS case of bed-head

She also woke up with a horrendous drippy, snotty nose, which I’m hoping is just a reaction to sleeping outside during the peak of pollen season, and not the onset of a full-blown cold. Especially since her asthma tends to make colds about ten times worse than the average kid’s.

Since we were in Asheboro, we decided to stop by the North Carolina Zoo on Sunday, to wear Catie out in the hopes that she’d sleep the whole drive home. We’d never been to the NC Zoo before, it’s really beautiful. We only hit the Africa exhibit, since we knew that’s where the animals Catie likes would be (elephants, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, etc.), and I think we made the right call. She had a great time.

Catie & me with the zebra

Dave & Catie on the elephant statue

Catie playing in the display helicopter

Catie & me on the carousel

Oh, and the plan to exhaust her so she’d sleep on the way home? Worked like a charm. Easiest road trip with a toddler ever.

Here are the rest of the pics from our camping and zoo trip. Overall, it wasn’t horrible and I might go camping again. But I think I have to exchange this stupid defective sleeping bag that I got, and maybe wait until it’s a little warmer. Generally, though, I think I’d prefer to rent a cabin. Even a really rustic cabin would be ok – as long as there are walls to shield us from the wind. And an attached bathroom. That’d be nice.